World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims declared by the United Nations was observed worldwide on Sunday. The day brought no difference to Bangladesh, as in the previous years. The government did not arrange any programme and so the authorities did not have to reiterate their commitment to the road victims.
In 1993, a British charity started a movement to celebrate Road Peace Day, which was recognised by the United Nations in 2005. We agree with Ilyas Kanchan, the leader of the movement for safe roads, that it is important to change the attitude of transport leaders towards road accidents and victims. On 15 November, he told Prothom Alo that the current provision of five years imprisonment for the accused in the case of death in an accident is 'non-bailable', which the transport leaders are not accepting. During the tenure of general Ershad, they made it bailable by making various movements and they are waiting to return there.
We think it is difficult to bring about change without counseling at the highest levels of government. In order to make the transport sector sensitive to the victims, two needs of the affected families have to be met. First need is to encourage victims to file lawsuits and to ensure speedy trial and second one is to provide quick compensation to the affected families.
In the last five years alone, more than 36,000 people were killed and 72,000 people have been injured in road accidents. The information of how many cases have been registered in the more than 26,000 accidents at this time and what is the progress of the judicial process is not recorded. With no surveillance system in place, it appears that the state has so far been accustomed to viewing road accidents as a major 'misfortune'. The same can be seen in the mindset of the entire transport administration.
Neither justice nor adequate compensation for road victims can be guaranteed unless this mind-set is eradicated. In this context, we draw the attention of the government and the media to a decision taken by the United Nations in 2010. The issue is more important in the context of Bangladesh than in many other places in the world. The United Nations has rightly used the words 'road crash' instead of the words 'road accident'.
The argument is that accidents are a matter of chance and misfortune and whatever happens on the road is mainly man-made and what is in the hands of man to prevent. So it has to be seen as road crash, not an accident. It should not be difficult for anyone to understand that when the media publishes news with the headline ‘Road Accidents’, it gives a cultural impunity to the responsible drivers. People including the families of the victims show a lenient attitude by blaming their luck.
Ilyas Kanchan said he was looking for a suitable Bengali synonym for the word road crash. Initially he thought the term ‘road crash’ could be used if necessary. Most importantly, the word crash creates a much more neutral concept than the word accident.
On victim remembrance day, we realise that the speedy trial of road crash cases is far beyond the reach of the road authorities. But in the law of 2018, it is possible for them to form trusts and funds to compensate the victims. Deliberate negligence is practically a criminal offence by the persons concerned. We do not see any alternative to the urgent intervention of the High Court to prevent this.